Arsenal unbeaten in London
Fulham's 11-year wait
Every game is a big game for Arsenal at this stage of the season, but a London derby against Fulham could prove to be a banana skin in their title pursuit.
The Gunners left it late to keep their five-point lead at the top of the Premier League table, with Reiss Nelson firing home a stoppage-time winner against Bournemouth. While Mikel Arteta's side won 3-2, Fulham were losing by the same scoreline away to Brentford on Monday night.
With 12 games remaining, Arsenal will find themselves having to respond to Manchester City, who play on Saturday evening. This game comes off the back of a Europa League trip to Portugal, leaving the league leaders with a challenge against their well-rested opponents.
It's a London thing
While Fulham have impressed at Craven Cottage, losing just three of their 13 games in front of their home fans, short away trips have been very kind to Arsenal. Arteta's team have won four out of four away in the capital, putting Crystal Palace, Brentford, Chelsea and Tottenham to the sword without conceding a single goal.
This gives the visitors the chance to become the first ever Premier League team to win five straight London derbies with five clean sheets, but they did get three points and a shut-out in the last meeting here.
Goals from Alexandre Lacazette, Gabriel and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave Arsenal all three points on the opening weekend of the 2020-21 season.
That game was also Willian's Arsenal debut, and the Brazilian is now facing his former club after returning to English football this season. He won't be the only ex-Arsenal man lining up against them, with Bernd Leno keeping goal for the hosts, though on-loan Cedric is unavailable to face his parent club.
Worrying signs for Fulham
While no team enjoys taking on teams at the top of the league, Fulham in particular have struggled in these circumstances. Defeat on Sunday would make it 10 straight losses against teams going into the game top of the table, and they have lost 16 of their last 18 such games, winning none since 2009.
Nine is also the magic number when it comes to matches against Arsenal specifically. That's how many the Cottagers have played in a row without winning, in a run which stretches back more than a decade, with Bobby Zamora's winner in January 2012 their most recent.
Arsenal have won 71% of their Premier League games against Fulham, losing the fixture just three times since the west London side climbed up to the top flight in the early 2000s. No team with 20 Premier League meetings with the Gunners holds a worse record.
Threat from out wide
Despite finishing on the losing side on Monday night, Fulham winger Manor Solomon scored for a fifth successive game in all competitions. The Israel international is finally hitting some form after an injury-interrupted start, and only Manchester hotshots Erling Haaland and Marcus Rashford have scored in more consecutive games this term.
On the other side, Arsenal's wide forwards could be key amid injury woes for their central strikers. However, while top scorer Bukayo Saka has been dangerous all season, Reiss Nelson has offered a different kind of threat.
Nelson came off the bench against Bournemouth to score Arsenal's third 90th-minute winner this season (and third in 2023), equalling a club record which has been set four times in the past. The academy graduate boasts an incredible five goal involvements across just three substitute appearances, averaging out at one for every 17 minutes on the pitch.
Fulham v Arsenal prediction
While Arsenal's London record hints at a comfortable away win, things might not be quite so easy. The visitors' relative lack of rest, coupled with Fulham scoring in all but two of their home games, means this one is tough to call.
With this in mind, our attention turns to bet builders, and we're looking at the in-form duo. More than 2.5 goals, with Saka to score or assist is where we begin, but throw in one or more shot on target for both Saka and Solomon and the odds climb to 7.92.
There is a long way to go in the title race, and Arsenal will end the day top of the pile regardless of the result at Craven Cottage. If they can claim all three points, though, it will feel very big indeed.